HUNGER STRIKE AS A NEW TOOL TO DEFY CLERICAL RULERS

TEHRAN 6 July (IPS) - As Iranians, led by students, organise themselves to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the first massive crackdown on student’s movement for democracy and freedom both in Iran and in the world, a number of students from Tehran and provincial universities have gone on hunger strike to demand the release of classmates arrested during recent anti-regime protests.

Analysts in Tehran say as the ruling conservatives continue the crackdown on students and other political dissidents, hunger strike and sit in become the new form of protest against the officials.

Among leading political activists observing hunger strike are Mr. Mohammad Mohsen Sazegara, one of the leaders of the Iranian "new-reformists", his wife, Dr. Soheyla Hamid Nia and their son, Vahid, Mr. Amir Bozorg Nia, a member of the Iranians for Democracy, Mr. Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, the Secretary of the Democratic Front of Iran as well as several students leaders, including Mr. Abdollah Mo’meni, Mr. Mehdi Aminzadeh, Mr. Morteza Safa’i, Mr. Roozbeh Shafi’i etc..all member of the Office for Consolidating Unity (OCU), the largest organisation of Iranian students.

According to the few remaining independent newspapers, students from universities in Tehran and other major cities have stopped eating since Monday, demanding the unconditional release from prisons students and other demonstrators detained by the authorities during the two-weeks protest movement, the trial of the "rogue elements" who carried the arrests and a pledge by the authorities to curtail the activities of the plainclothes thugs.

The Iranian Judiciary, controlled directly by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic, admitted the arrest of at least 4.000 people, but students and other independent sources put the number of arrested and wounded people at more than 10.000, most of them arrested by "rogue elements" of the clerical regime, namely the Basij volunteers and Islamic vigilante groups.

During the demonstrations, taking place mostly at night, students, joined by thousands of ordinary people, chanted "death to Khameneh'i" and called on President Mohammad Khatami to step down, triggering fierce clashes with pro-regime thugs and hooligans.

Mr. Qasem Sho’leh Sa’di, a prominent lawyer and spokesman for the Coordination Committee of Iranians for Democracy said ever since he had been appointed as the defence for Mr. Sazegara and his family, the Judiciary has adamantly refused him to meet with his client, who suffers from acute heart trouble.

"Not only Mr. Sazegara is observing a hunger strike, but he also refuses to take pills and other medicines vital for his weak health. As a result, his health has dangerously deteriorated and in my opinion, this is the reason why the Judiciary does not allow me to meet him", Mr. Sho’leh Sa’di, also a political activist who spent 40 days in jail recently, explained.

Mr. Ne’mat Ahmadi, another lawyer acting on behalf of several arrested students also complained that the Judiciary has not allowed him to meet with his clients, all of whom observing hunger strike.

"Not only the Judiciary does not allow lawyers to meet with their imprisoned clients, but they even threatens them, as they do with the people’s representatives who wants to meet political detainees, as it was the case for Mr. Daadfar and Mrs. Fatemeh Haqiqatjoo", two reformist lawmakers.

Mrs. Haqiqatjoo is under strong fire by the conservatives for her defence of the students and the blunt criticism she addressed to the authorities for their brutal handling of the students protest movement.

Conservatives-controlled newspapers "Keyhan" and "Resalat" printed "confessions" from a student, accusing the outspoken Mrs. Haqiqatjoo as having "encouraged and incited" the students to stage anti-regime demonstrations.

Lawmakers, lawyers and students all ridiculed the published confessions of Mr. Peyman Aref, observing that the "forced and fabricated confession takings from political prisoners is an old and worn-out method that does not interests anyone".

They also observed that Mr. Hoseyn Shari’atmadari, appointed as the executive editor of Keyhan by Ayatollah Khameneh'i, is an expert in forcing dissidents to confessions.

"It is interesting to know how Mr. Aref’s confessions, supposed to have been made during secret hearing, had reached Keyhan and Resalat at a time that even his lawyer is denied assisting the hearing on the ground that the trial is in its first, behind closed door stage", said Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, a jailed lawyer.

In a statement, the OCU denounced the action of the two pro-conservatives newspapers, insisting that the alleged confessions made by Mr. Aref are "a ridicule farce void of any credit, as seen in the case of Mr. Ali Afshari".

The Iranian state-rune, leader-controlled Television showed some months ago Mr. Afshari, an influential member of the OCU’s executive committee, confessing to his "mistakes" and presenting both the leader and the Iranians his apologies, but once freed, he said publicly that the confessions had been "fabricated".

As the authorities are nervously gearing up to prevent any public demonstrations for July 9, several students leaders assured that they would go ahead with planned demonstrations on the day, marking the fourth anniversary of violent clashes between pro-reform students and security forces in which at least one student was killed and hundreds more arrested.

Officials in charge of Tehran's main university campus have announced that the dormitories would be closed from Monday 7 to 14 July, "due to necessary repairs works" and called on the students to oblige.

But the students say in case they are not allowed the celebration, they would stage a sit in near the offices of the United Nations in Tehran.

However, the internet newspaper "Peykeiran", quoting an "informed source", said Sunday that in his meetings with his British counterpart, Mr. Kamal Kharrazi has assured Mr. Jack Straw that on 9 July "not a drop of blood would come out of anyone’s nose".

Mr. Straw was in Tehran last week, urging Iranian officials to comply with the decisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency and demands by the European Union concerning respect of human rights, abandoning nuclear programmes and stopping support for Arab and Palestinian extremists opposed to peace with Israel.

"Both Britain and France have urged the Islamic Republic to not interfere in the Israeli and Palestinian affairs, respect human rights, sign the additional protocols to the Non Proliferation Treaty or it would be toppled", Peykeiran said, quoting the unidentified source, adding that the Iranians have bowed to the demands, but on condition to give them time for preparing the public opinion at home.

Meanwhile, hundreds Iranian opposition groups and personalities in the Diaspora are also preparing worldwide demonstrations for 9 July. ENDS STUDENTS UNRESTS 6703